Research shows that cinnamon is an excellent way to lower blood glucose levels after consuming sugary or carb-dense foods. The suggested dose for cinnamon is 1-6 grams, taken with a carb-heavy meal. I followed this recommendation and saw fantastic results: Over three weeks, I consumed several high-glycemic foods with no major changes to my body composition.
Cinnamon should be an integral part of your program if you're serious about fat loss, and Full Spectrum Cinnamon Extract from Planetary Formulas is an excellent way to reduce blood sugar levels so you burn fat and get lean fast!
Read the full review at Renaissance Fitness Inc..
Years of research show consuming 250-1,000 mg of high-quality polyunsaturated Omega-3's per day can improve all sorts of issues, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, asthma, hay fever, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Most importantly, Omega-3's reduce inflammation and pain from physical training, boost brain power and metabolism, reduce stress, lubricate joints, and lower body fat using doses as high as 6,000 mg...
Read the full review at Renaissance Fitness Inc..
Green tea has a noble history dating back 4,000 years, and has been consumed to help everything from healing wounds to promoting digestion. In the 20th Century, scientists discovered green tea contains a bunch of useful compounds, including EGCG and L-Theanine, which boost metabolism and improve mental focus.
It would make sense then, you would think, to concentrate this tea and turn it into a pill, allowing for easier consumption and higher concentrations. But this idea usually fails, and the Green Tea Fat Burner from Applied Nutrition is no exception.
Had Applied Nutrition simply extracted green tea and placed it into a tiny pill, I probably would have had no issues; but they added a "Vitality Boost" to their Fat Burner formula, and this is where everything falls apart for me.
I seem to be sensitive to yerba mate, a natural herbal stimulant found in this "Vitality Boost," and was plagued with migraines and unshakable jitteriness whenever I took the pills. I've had similar experiences in the past with yerba mate, and was hoping the amount found in this formula would be small enough to go unnoticed in my body. I was wrong, and my constant nausea made it challenging to take the pills regularly.
Nausea is an excellent appetite suppressant, but I'd rather spend extra time in the gym or change my diet plan.
"Oh man, I think the power just went out."
It was the evening of Hurricane Sandy. I was bunkered at my parent's house, hoping our building wouldn't be blown away from all the rain.
"Yep. The power is officially out now. Break out the candles."
ConEd called us several hours earlier to inform us they were shutting down generators in our area to prevent flooding. We should anticipate a short blackout and quick restoration of power.
Turns out, ConEd was late and the generator providing my building (as well as the buildings of several hundred thousand other New Yorkers) literally blew up. Watch this clip if you don't believe me:
"Here, take these..."
My friend, a successful personal trainer and health nut, handed me four little pills. I asked him what they were. This felt like a drug deal.
"They're probiotics," he said. "Take them. You'll feel much better in no time."
Probiotics are bacteria, like the kind you find in yogurt. They help maintain a very important balance of microorganisms in your digestive tract that aid in digestion, nutrient absorption and killing germs. When we get sick, travel too much, or take medications like antibiotics, the microorganisms in our stomach become imbalanced, leading to long-term G.I. distress and general illness. Taking a high dose of probiotics is the fastest way to get your body back on the right track.
I was suffering from a terrible head cold and had already taken an over-the-counter decongestant, but it didn't help much. I still felt like I'd been run over by a moose.
I was completely blown away when my symptoms went away within hours after taking my friend's pills. My nose cleared up and my cough was gone. I felt like a superhero, healing myself within a matter of hours. I instantly became a believer in the power of probiotics.
In recent weeks, I've become fascinated by meat. I love meat, and firmly believe it can make a huge difference in the gym and in life.
If you're a vegetarian, I salute you. I tried eating a plant-based diet once and just couldn't do it. I felt lethargic and my workouts suffered. I am most definitely a carnivore, and always feel best when I consume at least 3 lbs of high-quality red meat per week.
Not all red meats are created equal, and it's very important to eat the highest-quality meat you can find. If you can find wild grass-fed meat, that would be ideal.
But what if you can't find a high-quality meat? What if all you have access to is garbage?
CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid found in grass-fed animal products like meat and dairy. It differs slightly from other omega-6 fats in that it is very effective in preventing tumor and cancer growth.
This means it's healthy for you.
There is some research out there to suggest CLA may help increase testosterone levels and reduce body fat, but the results are mixed. The reason CLA works is still unknown, and a solid long-term research study on humans has yet to be done.
For now, it seems the fatter you are the greater the benefits of CLA. So if you're a fat-ass, I highly recommend you stop eating crap and start taking CLA, fish oil, and probiotics as part of your training program.
Keep in mind that the research has all been conducted with grass-fed meats. This means the effectiveness of synthetic CLA is still up for debate.
So does that mean that alcoholics turn 120 years old? Not quite. Many studies on red wine have found that the antioxidants and flavonoids, especially resveratrol, have health-enhancing effects. Resveratrol in particular is a substance of great interest. It stands behind the "French paradox," explaining that relatively few people in France have heart problems despite a high fat diet. As a quick side note: from a scientific stand point, I find it ludicrous to believe that you could pinpoint something so complex as mortality on a single item, such as the consumption of red wine, but I digress.
Back to the topic, studies with mice have shown that those that were fed a diet high in saturated fats and got a dose of resveratrol lived longer than their counterparts on a restricted diet. In fact, the resveratrol seemed to mimic the effects of a 30% calorie reduction of the overall daily intake. The substance also seems to reduce the bad cholesterol and keep the heart healthy. The findings of this and other studies have fueled a surge in resveratrol supplements; it has been touted as an elixir for longevity and happiness. Dosages have also been increased to very high levels (the equivalent of drinking 30 liters of red wine a day to get to the same effects as in the mice studies) in order to promote cell health.
Today we have a brief follow-up review of Arginine's baby brother, L-Citrulline.
Like I stated last month, Arginine is an amino acid, and acts as a vasodilator. It stimulates nitric oxide and creatine production, which means lifting more weight, moving faster, and recovering quicker after each workout. The recommended dose for arginine is 5-10 grams pre-workout.
Potent stuff. I highly recommend it!
Citrulline works in a similar way, and is the precursor to Arginine in the Citrulline-Arginine-Ornithine Cycle. It is found in high quantities in watermelon, watermelon rind, and some other citrus fruits, and is much easier to digest and absorb than Arginine. Therefore, it is more bioavailable.
At dosages of 6-8 g/day, Citrulline has been shown to improve aerobic and anaerobic performance by way of ammonia detoxification and nitric oxide synthesis.
And who doesn't want a boost in performance?!
What is salt and why does it make you fat? I touch upon this in my book, so here is the short version. Salt has been around for 4,000 or more years, being used in conserving meats and other foods. Chemically, table salt consists of two electrolytes: sodium and chloride, both of which are critical for your health. This is also the reason why one of your four types of gustatory receptors (taste buds) is dedicated only for detecting salt. Sodium regulates blood pressure and volume; if you consume too little or too much, the body will react with changes in blood pressure. In recent years, the typical Western diet filled with processed foods, which are loaded with salt. This leads to an over consumption of sodium, as well as calories. People very often eat too much sodium, which makes them reach for sugary, calorie-rich drinks. Salty foods are also easy to overeat, so calories can pile up. (Doritos with a soda, anyone?) The logical conclusion is that though not directly storing fat, salt can help you overeat.
GLUTAMINE IS YOUR FRIEND
Glutamine is an amino acid. It's mostly found in meats and eggs, and is vital for proper cellular function and repair. It becomes especially valuable to your muscle cells during times of crisis, like after a major injury or, more importantly for us, a very intense workout.
Glutamine is a rather boring supplement, to be honest. There are no amazing jolts of energy or feats of super-human strength. It works quietly in the background, keeping your body happy and healthy.
The NOW brand of glutamine is even more subtle because I had no side effects or ill reactions while taking it, so there was nothing to notice. This is a good thing. G.I. distress reduces performance in the gym, and that's the last thing we want from our supplements. Props to NOW FOODS for making such a high-quality product. I highly recommend it!
My only issue is the serving size.
The recommended dosage for free-form glutamine is roughly 100 mg per kg of bodyweight. This means I need to ingest about 9 grams of glutamine before I see any useful effects. Based on the serving size of one pill, I would have to take 18 pills after every workout.
I don't know about you, but 18 pills is a lot. For my money, I'd rather buy a bucket of L-glutamine powder (at 5 grams per serving) and just throw two scoops in my post-workout shake.
Scott and I covered bulking in a gymchat a while back, but I do get quite a few questions about it so I want to touch on the topic once more.
Bulking up or eating to gain muscle mass is something anyone who has ever picked up a weight has come across. It basically means that you increase your caloric intake above maintenance in order to build huge, beautiful muscles to impress girls or whatever your goal is. Sounds easy enough but does it work?
I am not thrilled by either approach, since they both have serious drawbacks.
The lean bulking simply doesn't work, in order to gain muscle you ll have to gain some fat with it. That doesn't mean you should resemble a sumo wrestler but you wont have an 8 pack either.
GFH works in order to gain muscle but does require 16+ weeks of diet in order to see those. For a natural bodybuilder, it is impossible to diet for that long without losing a substantial amount of muscle, which means your gains are limited. Someone who is chemically enhanced can go this route, since the anabolics will prevent catabolism during the diet. Then there are aesthetics and overall health. An extra 30 lbs simply doesn't look good nor is it a great idea for your heart, liver and joints to carry so much extra weight. I have tried the GFH and, while it is fun to eat whatever you like, being 250 lbs in the NYC summer wasn't all that great. But I digress.
SO whats left to do? I'd suggest to gain a little and then diet for a week in order to limit fat gain and keep you looking great, basically "culking".
Lets cover some basics first. How much muscle can you gain? Despite what the magazines tell you, you will NOT gain 20 lbs of muscle in 8 weeks.
1/2 lbs per week would be outstanding, which wold come to 25lbs a year. That's a figure that novice lifter might achieve; if you are more advanced 6-8 per year would be outstanding. As for fat gain, depending on your nutrition and genetics for every 3 lbs of muscle you will gain 1 lbs of fat, some unfortunate individuals might even gain 1 lbs of fat for every lbs of muscle gained. It's a harsh reality isn't it?
Join us for Workout Nutrition II.
This week we're returning to our conversation on diet, looking at Workout Nutrition. What to consume before/during/after a workout, how it changes based on workout type, and why it all works. The good stuff.
Helping us explore this fascinating topic is none other than Olympic athlete, personal trainer and nutritionist Maik Wiedenbach. Fantastic.
As a bonus, we'll also be having a bit of a giveaway this week. Maik will be giving out 5 copies of his '101 Fitness Myths' ebook shortly after the gymchat, to randomly chosen commenters. If you'd like a chance to win a copy of the book, just fire in a question or comment at any point during the discussion.
I expect my pills to work has hard as I do, especially if the label has the word "xtreme" on it. I want to feel like a greek god every time I pop those suckers, and they should make people around me cower in fear and reverence at the shear awesomeness of my workouts.
Unfortunately, I did not experience the shock and awe I was hoping for while using Vasopro. In fact, the results were far too ordinary for me to consider this my preferred pre-workout stimulant.
Vasopro is basically a caffeine pill with the addition of acacia rigidula, a shrub that acts like adrenaline and helps burn small amounts of body fat.
The problem with caffeine (any source of caffeine, mind you) is that the more you use it, the less it works. Use caffeine long enough, and you'll need to ingest higher and higher dosages to feel an effect. If the dose gets too high, sleep, blood pressure, heart rate, and a whole slew of other biorhythms are thrown out of whack. Not good.
Each Vasopro pill contains 250mg of caffeine, about the same amount as a medium cup of coffee from Starbucks.
I was taking two pills on a regular basis and, while I felt fantastic the first few days, the feeling was greatly diminished by the end of the first week of use. I tried taking three pills, but became jittery during the workout, so I reduced the dose and was disapointed by the lack of umph only two pills provided.
I am big fan of whey protein, I think its one of the best supplements you can buy and Isopure is one of the top brands in the field, so I was curious if the actual product would hold up to my expectations.
Lets look at the nutritional information first.
Amount per Serving (2 scoops).
1 g Fat, 50 g Protein, 3 g Carbohydrates. It has a complete amino acid profile ( as whey protein should have) and comes with a high amount of BCAAs (about 20%). It has zero lactose, which makes it very gut friendly and is fortified with nutrients and vitamins. Nothing to dislike here, it can even be used in a pre-contest diet.
Eggs are one of the best bodybuilding foods, full of protein, minerals and vitamins.This makes complete sense if one considers that egg protein is the gold standard for biological value (100) of proteins. It has become a custom, however, to consume only the egg whites. The logic behind it is that all the fat is hidden in the yolk and all the protein in the egg white.
"My god, I feel like I can take on the universe right now!"
I was standing in the middle of the gym, water bottle in hand, my shirt drenched in sweat. I had just finished an 80 minute-long upper body workout and was shaking uncontrollably from all the hard work.
If you had asked me then to join you for another workout, I would have said yes.
That's because right before my workout, I took a heaping scoopful of MuscleTech NeuroCore, and that is what made all the difference!
My friends over at eVitamins.com sent me a bottle of this magic powder to use and review; and let me tell you: this pre-workout stimulant is more than just a fancy cup of coffee! In fact, it takes coffee to a whole new level with the addition of beta-alanine to buffer lactic acid, L-citruline to increase nitric oxide, creatine to increase strength, and geranium extract to fire up your nervous system.
first off I must say that I am very proud to have mastered my first US TV appearance on Good Day NY. IT was a lot of fun.
After getting some questions and emails in regards to my "Cardio on an empty stomach" article, I wanted to go a little bit broader and debate the subject of workout timing.
To me, pre- and intra workout nutrition is much more important that the actual time of the day, which is what I'll try to outline here.
Most people train after work, which makes a certain amount of sense. You are fully awake, have eaten 3-4 meals (I hope) and your hormone levels should be nearly optimal. You might even use the workout as a stress reliever if your boss or co-worker annoyed you. The downside is that some of your mental energy might be spent already, depending on your job. To overcome that, I use 3 grams of L-tyrosine with 200-300mg of caffeine 30 minutes before the workout. This combo gives a nice even focus without making you hyper, like some of the sugary energy drinks out there (it's also cheaper).
As for the last meal before training, I usually eat a lean protein/complex carb combo, something like flank steak and potatoes, chicken and rice, oats and whey. You ll have to figure out what works for you, in my case I get the best pumps when eating red meat before training.
NB : to see all of these as they appear (and to share your own thoughts on things), the simplest way is to follow me on Google+. You'll see these, and a whole lot more.
Even though this is more a strength orientated website, most athletes still do some form of cardio and, lets face it, most of us want to look good. So fat loss is a topic worth covering.
For ages, people have gotten up at ungodly hours and performed cardio on an empty stomach since the body then has no other choice but to burn fat. It sounds great, but is it true? Aside from the fact, that I do not think cardio is necessary to get lean (there, I said it), lets have a closer look at cardio in a fastened state.
In short, no. For the long answer read on.
According to the New York Times, the consumption of red meat is linked with an increase in cancer and heart disease, in short it will kill you faster.
Now before we dive into the actual study, in the sense of full disclosure, I am a convinced (and healthy) carnivore and love a good steak any given time of the day.
The study looks at about 120,000 men and women, who filled out health related questionnaires and the conclusion is the following: people who increased their red meat consumption by 3 ounces daily were at a 12% higher risk of dying, "including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death."
At first glance, this might make you want to become a vegan but someone needs to stand up for red meat and it might as well be me. So here are my problems with the study:
1. What kind of red meat are we talking about? Obviously, consuming hot dogs and lunch meats is something entirely different that eating flank steak or bison, both in terms of transfats and added chemicals. The article gives a partial answer by saying "The increased risks linked to processed meat, like bacon, were even greater: 20 percent over all, 21 percent for cardiovascular disease and 16 percent for cancer."
2. "People who ate more red meat were less physically active and more likely to smoke and had a higher body mass index, researchers found." Sorry, I don't see the connection between red meat and smoking. Couldn't it be that the cigarettes were responsible for the higher cancer rate?
As for the higher body mass index (which is a questionable instrument to begin with since it doesn't take into account actual body fat vs muscle) , my theory is that those people simply had poor nutritional habits to begin with. here is an analogy: someone goes to McDonalds and eats a burger with fries and a milk shake. Did his weight increase and health problems really stem from the red meat? Or might it have been the extra 2000 calories?
On the flip side, people on diets tend to eat more fish and chicken since they are less calorically dense than red meat.
3. Lifestyle. We do not get an idea whether the participants were physically active. Needless to say it is different if an athlete with 5% body fat eats a NY strip steak or someone with 35%. Why? Somebody who is obese has more cholesterol in his body already (stored as body fat) so his levels are bad to begin with, the steak will not to anymore damage.
Overall, I am not putting my steak knife down just yet. Red meat is an excellent source of protein, zinc, creatine and b-vitamins. Humans have consumed it for hundreds of years with going extinct, what has changed is our overall calorie intake and an increase in processed foods. Yes, red meat contains more fat - especially saturated fat - than fish or chicken but some saturated fat and cholesterol is needed for our brains, nerves and to make testosterone.
No matter what you currently take - and why - we'd love to hear about it. See you there.
What do you take, when and why?
This week we're looking at vitamins & minerals, protein shakes and everything else you take to help fine-tune your regular diet. What's necessary, who should be taking it and the many benefits on offer.
See you there.
NB : If you've just joined us on Google+, welcome. Join us on Mar 14, and add a comment/ask a question or three. Dive in.
Who : Strength-training fans
Topic : Supplementation
When : Wed Mar 14, 9pm EDT (GMT -4h)
How : Post a comment, question or reply
Where : https://plus.google.com/u/0/113406428532094481598/posts/QEx2pRVGQQh
If you've never been to one of these discussions before, here's how to join in the fun. Simple, quick to set up and free.
And to see when it's on in your timezone, head over to the calendar.
Supplements...we all take them, looking for an edge or even a magic pill. Over the years, I must have taken hundreds of different supplements and spent 1000s of $ (sad).
The results are sobering, to say the least. There are some that are worth the money, 101 Fitness Myths has a chapter on the 5 best supplements.
But what always fascinates me is the incredible marketing and graphs the companies use to suck money out of our pockets. Waiting for clients at the gym, I began flipping through muscle magazines, and I couldn't help but notice the stupidity of some supplement ads.
So without further ado, my 10 favorites:
10. "Now with real fruit!" Ok, ...what was it before? Unreal fruit??
9. "Our new pre-workout supp will cause skin bursting pumps! "Wow, that would really hurt and definitely put you in the ER.
8. "Burn 400% more body fat. "Than who? Where is the comparison?
7. "Build 20 lbs of muscle!" That is a great one. Aside from the fact, that it would be a difficult feat to achieve even while on steroids, one has to wonder: what if I only weigh 120 lbs? Do I really gain 15% of my body weight?
6. "Breakthrough technology." Does it get any more vague than this?
5. "Lean muscle mass. "There isn't really any fatty muscle mass, since that would be called adipose tissue or body fat.
4. "Steroid-like results." Nothing, absolute noting will give you results like steroids. There is a reason those substances are classified as drugs in most countries...No further comment...
3. "Muscles exploding with new growth." That would probably kill you.
2. "Build x lbs of pure muscle." How in the world do you build impure muscle? If you have this much control over your body, you could definitely play in the NFL or be your own nuclear reactor a la Dr. Manhattan.
1. "Product x declares death to fat cells." Without getting into the whole leptin discussion, fat cell death (apoptosis) is extremely rare. If all your fat cells were to die, so would you. Fat is also needed to make testosterone so some of it would be helpful. On another note, fat doesn't melt either, it oxidizes and by doing so the body makes use out of the stored energy.
But my absolute favorite is a certain company who takes it to a whole new level. They basically, use the Matrix movie ( do you want the blue pill, Neo?) , the blue pill signaling endless muscle growth and 4% body fat. You (Neo) have to commit to buy a 3 month supply for a a whopping 500+$, which will be delivered to you in a case that looks like something straight out of Area 51. The supplement? A humble berry extract....
I understand they are trying to sell us things, but I can't help but wonder if the supplement industry takes all bodybuilders and strength athletes for illiterates who are unable to tie their own shoes.
Rant mode off...
After the 10 best diet foods piece was rather well received, I have decided to go the more unknown route and write about foods that have fallen off the wagon for no good reason. So without further do, in no particular order, 8 foods every athlete should at least consider.
So today, I want to write about one of the forgotten pioneers of bodybuilding, who coincidentally, was almost as sociable as Mike Mentzer: Vince Gironda aka the Iron Guru. Vince, born in the Bronx, later settled in California and was one of the first trainers to the stars.
His clients were : Clint Eastwood, Cher, Larry Scott, Arnold Schwarzenegger and so on. But it wasn't so much his clientele that makes him remarkable, but his contributions to the sport which pushed weight lifting in a new direction. I just want to list the most important ones.
He was one of the first to develop a low carb approach to dieting, where he prescribed a whole eggs and lean meats combination along with some vegetables (pretty much a paleo diet).
Interestingly enough, he only proposed 3 meals a day and bridged the time in between with amino acid and liver tabs. I myself am a huge fan of liver tabs, its a convenient protein and vitamin B source and I feel my physique looks better and leaner when I use them. So this is more or less an intermittent fasting approach, as it has become popular today.
Even though he didn't like back squats, he used front squats in every workout as a hormonal optimizer in order to create growth in all muscle groups. This is something I have done with clients and I urge everyone to try. If you have a period of time where you can focus on your training and resting, up your calories by 10% and train your legs every time you go to the gym for 2-3 weeks. You will be very pleased with the results.
The bench press got no love from Vince, he felt it places too much stress on the front deltoid and doesn't develop a good chest. As a bodybuilder, I have to agree. The flat bench is very hard on the rotator cuff and front delts, while creating a droopy chest. I prefer the dumbbell version or the incline bench. For power lifting, that's a different story.
Vince also dismissed the then common notion of bulking for the sake of getting bigger as nonsense since it only led to fat gain. He was very much concerned with creating a physique as opposed to just heaping on mass (where has that idea gone??). I think the appropriate term for Vince would be "Physique Architect", he was very much concerned with a v-tapered physique. Vince was actually punished at a contest for appearing too "ripped" and was placed lower for being too lean ...(those judges later oversaw Lehman Brothers real estate portfolio).
In a way, I feel that Vince was too ahead of his time. In today's world he would have been a multimillionaire over and over.
That statement should have gotten everyone's attention. But what does flexible dieting mean?
OK, the donut part was more of a hook to get you to read the following. As we all now, dieters are failing by the millions, due to a number of reasons , the biggest one being a lack of willpower.
Some of them are so motivated that they don't stray from their diet for weeks, counting every calorie, eating at the perfect time and then....they implode. Due to stress or worries they fall off the wagon completely and stay off it.
This is where flexible dieting comes in; you need to allow yourself to live. If you are on a mild caloric deficit (400 calories per day or less), schedule a cheat meal once a week, so you can go to dinner with friends without worrying. I would give myself a 4-hour window for this and eat a side of fries or a dessert to your liking.
Athletes who run a more severe deficit and have a competent coach need to have a 2-3 day re-feed every week, combined with a heavy weight training session.
This will allow them to stop the muscle loss and revive their metabolism in order to continue to lose body fat. What does that mean?
When you diet for an extended period of time, such as more than 14 days, bad things start happening in your body: HGH and testosterone drop, cortisol goes up and leptin drops. This goes especially if excessive amounts of cardio are being performed. The results: you get hungrier, more irritable and start losing muscle. Fat loss, on the other hand, comes to a screeching halt. Not a good situation for a bodybuilder or strength athlete. Flexible dieting or smart cheating reverses that.
During a diet, it is critical to consume foods that will curb your hunger for an extended period of time.
Here are my most effective diet foods:
Getting out of bed at 6 am when its pitch black and going to lift with several layers of clothing isn't a lot of fun. Also, it is easier to gravitate toward "comfort foods" than a bodybuilding menu. After all, there aren't many opportunities to show off your physique right now, so why bother? Is it really worth all the sacrifices?
In short: yes! Every meal, every rep sets me apart from those who cant do it. It makes me feel good about myself and life as such. Bodybuilding is more than a sport; it is therapy, almost a religion. It can better you as a person, since it forces you into a structure and gives a schedule. When my mother fell ill, the sport was the only thing that kept me sane. It is the element of control that you have in the weight room: no matter what happens in the outside world, 100lbs will always be 100lbs.
So keep on training and eating right! Besides, you won't be in shape for a July 4th bash when you start training on Memorial Day.
If you shop in the exterior aisles only, you will find produce, vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs and such. These are the items that should make up 90% of your diet. Lean meats, fish, eggs and dairy for protein and fat, vegetables for their fiber and vitamin content, followed by potatoes, oats, and rice for complex carbohydrates. Throw in some nuts or nut butters for unsaturated fatty acids and you have a winning formula.
Hello everyone, since this is my first article for Straight to the Bar, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Maik Wiedenbach, I am a NY based personal trainer (or as I like to call it, physique architect), nutritionist and author of "101 Fitness Myths.
I've been a professional athlete for 10 years before switching to coaching and my motto is "Anyone can be in great shape". My articles, drawn from my extensive research and practical experience attempt to cut through the fog and clutter in the fitness world.
Over the next couple weeks, I will be posting a series of articles regarding nutrition, training and the fitness mind set as such. I am extremely thrilled to be part of the Straight to the Bar community.
So lets dive in, the first topic is genetics. People often complain about theirs, admire others and blame their DNA for everything bad in the world. But how important is your genetic make up really?
I don't have the genetics
I hear this a lot - both in the gym and casual conversation. Genetics are a favorite scapegoat for athletic shortcomings. We blame genetics for our failure to build muscle or lose body fat. But how much do genetics really influence your success in the gym?
The answer is less than you would like to believe. While everyone has inherited a certain blueprint, which includes having good and not-so-good muscle groups, certain hormonal levels, and fat storage tendencies, it is also true that ANYONE can get in amazing shape.
You are trying to build the best body for you, not to emulate someone else.
Think of your body as a plant. Given the right conditions, a plant will grow and blossom. If it doesn't, that means something is wrong-- a parasite, not enough light, or too much water, perhaps. The same applies to your body: There is always an explanation for why you're not progressing.
Success in training has three pillars: training, recovery, and nutrition. Most people at best get two out of three right.
Most of us don't have the potential of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that doesn't mean we cannot achieve our own goals. By way of example, look at the guy next to Arnold: Frank Zane.
Yet, he won Mr. Olympia three times, beating Arnold!
How did he do it? He stuck to his diet, trained with unmatched intensity, and did not take no for an answer. He realized that he couldn't compete with Arnold on the basis of mass; so he created the most symmetrical physique, which many people still consider as close to perfect as a human can get.
Frank Zane's story is inspiring. Your first step is to honestly assess yourself, your schedule, and your training experience, and devise the plan that's right for you.
Swing by, and share your own thoughts. I'd love to hear how everyone else approaches things.
The book is really more about getting healthy than a book about working out. That said, if you are working to get leaner, stronger and healthier, and you haven't been pleased with your results then you should buy this book. Sisson's general principles will help you immensely.
The Primal Blueprint opens up with a wonderful introduction that is essentially a "primer". Sisson illustrates the main differences between "Conventional Wisdom" and his 10 laws of Primal life. Much of what passes as conventional thought is truly based on flawed science, protecting special interests, or both. A great example is that most of us think of grain as the "staff of life". On the other hand, Sisson quotes Jared Diamond, UCLA evolutionary biologist, as calling propagation of grain the "worst mistake in the history of the human race".
From here the book quickly moves into the 10 Laws of the Primal Blueprint. Nothing is all that earth shattering but combined, the mandates make up so much more than the parts. Representative of the laws "Use your brain" and "Avoid poisonous things". Combining the 10 together will, however, be earth shaking.
The book goes into significant detail on each of the 10 as it unfolds. Sections include nutritional philosophy and the science behind it. The primal laws of working out... (Hint: sometimes less is more). And finally some great information about altering your lifestyle so that it is congruent with your goals. I found the nutritional information to be the most useful and beneficial. The exercise section is the least complete.
Many folks have said that the book doesn't truly map out a plan of action. I think this is a benefit though, as so many so-called "diets" are so dogmatic that compliance is a virtual impossibility. For that reason, I'd agree that the title may be a bit misleading. In my mind, a "blueprint" leaves nothing to chance. It's a complete plan in other words. More accurately the Primal Blueprint is a supply list and you will fill in the blanks as to how you will utilize the supplies. I don't find that a shortcoming at all.
The first thing to say is this: everyone is different. I went from being a porridge-worshipping fruit hound who carried a rucksack full of bananas and home-made muesli bars everywhere I went, to a fairly strict Paleo dude in the space of 24 hours. I read about it, it made sense, I did it.
My better half, on the other hand, has taken 3 years to transition. Chances are, you are more like her; but if you are more like me, then you can stop reading here, because you are so obsessive and single-minded about this sort of thing that you don't need advice on how to make the switch anyway.
To go Paleo you basically stop eating certain foods and eat more of others to replace the calories. The new foods will be more nutritionally dense that the ones they displaced - hence you get healthier.
So I recommend writing down a list of the foods you need to stop eating (e.g. potatoes, rice, bread, refined sugar) and a list of the foods you need to eat more of (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, nuts.)
You can use this as a reference as you transition, just to remind yourself where you want to get to. Beyond this, how meticulously you plan and document your activities is down to your own style. Do whatever works best for you.
For my other half, it was refined sugar. The great thing about this one is that you can get some pretty tangible benefits from that change alone.
The key is to pick these suckers off one by one rather than try to do too much. That way your sense of achievement that is not sullied by the fact you are still eating other non-Paleo foods. If you only aimed to give up one thing to start with, then you have succeeded.
As you start tackling the bad guys, you need to identify your allies amongst the good guys. As you transition to Paleo you will start to lose your treats. No more crackers with creamed cheese or potato chips in front of the TV. You will suddenly become aware of how emotionally ingrained some of the snacking habits you've developed over the years are.
For me, porridge was strongly linked to childhood. I still miss it now. But once I started exploring the Good Guys I realised I had some fantastic allies - and now I have even stronger bonds with Paleo foods and now I wouldn't give them up in favour of porridge or any other non-Paleo foods. My snacking allies are nuts, coconut (in its many forms) and seeds. Other allies are avocado and scrambled eggs.
You have some meat, some vegetables and some brown stuff - this was how I heard a young child describe mealtimes on a recent documentary. Clearly it depends where you are in your transition as to how much and which types of brown stuff you have with your meals. But as you start to pick off the bad guys like rice and potatoes, you need to start seeing meals as meat and vegetables only.
The challenge is then to be inventive and use variety to keep things interesting. Ever eaten a rabbit? Lamb's hearts? Venison liver? Fresh Crab? There are hundreds of types of fish. Indeed there are hundreds of varieties of vegetables too. And with the potential to throw coconut, nuts, seeds and fruit into the bargain, suddenly pasta seems a little dull - mere padding. This is how you need to think. Exciting recipes for Paleo meals abound on the internet.
Paleo is low carb, by definition - as you eat more of the good guys, you'll get more fat and protein. As you eat fewer of the bad guys you will get fewer carbs. Embrace this - it's why you can still get full without the brown stuff. It's why this diet is so healthy.
I am not a certified nutritionist. Of course most nutritionists advocate the food pyramid and other absurdities so this may not be a strike against me. The more lay-research I do into nutrition and physical performance and health the more I see vast differences between what the laboratory informed "experts" generally recommend and what those in the trenches practice. For an entertaining and insightful look into the ideology of food guidelines and dietary fads I would recommend hunting down Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma at your local library.
Before laying out my haphazard collection of dietary tips I will set out a little scheme as dreamed up by Pollan. I am going from memory here but Pollan sets out the following guideposts, lovely in their simplicity:
I know I don't have them exactly right but you get the idea. Simple. My quinoa salad from last night breaks rule #3 but I don't think it applies to homemade food. You get the point. Strikes me as reasonable and not too hard to live by.
Here is my less-lovely list along with short explanations:
Eat less grains. That does not mean to eat no carbs. Try and get your carbs from primarily vegetable and secondarily fruit sources. Think of approaching grains as a condiment. And when you do eat grains try and eat whole grains such as quinoa, amaranth and the like.
Why eat vegetables instead of grains?
All fats are not created equal. You must consume healthy fats for your well-being. Much of your brain is lined with fats. Fats promote hormonal communication. So eat avocados, olive oil and flax oil.
Overall it was a great discussion. For details of the next one (and info on how you can join in), head over to the Twitterchats page. See you there.
(personally I look for burgers which contain meat, bread and very little else).
Via Blog of Hilarity : the Pizza Cone. Because sometimes it's just too cold for ice-cream.
Some of what's in this article will make you scratch your head in amazement.
Some of you reading this are very educated in the field of nutrition and will not know this information.
Some of you may say that I am entirely wrong and have no scientific basis for what I'm saying. Look it up, it's all there.
Let's get down to business shall we?
Know first that when I talk about honey I talk about only raw, unfiltered honey, straight from the hive. This junk in the stores isn't worth a penny of your money unless you have an unusual grocery store like I do.
So what is so great about honey? More than you ever knew...
The sugar in honey is comprised of a couple of things - Fructose, Glucose, and a small amount of Sucrose. Glucose is absorbed into your blood rather quickly whereas fructose gets in there more slowly. This mix makes honey the ideal food for sustained energy, the long release of insulin that's not overly bearing on your body. Now this is usually what turns people off to honey, its high sugar content, but you must remember another massive benefit of raw honey, its mineral content.
Raw honey contains many trace minerals including niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. This isn't an exhaustive list by any means, there are many more. I tell you this because raw honey has such a high mineral content that the minerals actually act as a buffer to the fast absorbing sugar forcing it to be absorbed more slowly. Cool huh?
Minerals are probably the most underrated micronutrient in the public's diet right now. What do they do? They modulate cellular activity, they feed your heart, pancreas and brain, and they have a small part in regulating your immune system. Minerals take a part in every place of your body. Seriously, enough magnesium can reverse heart disease.
Let's talk about enzymes. Raw honey is the most enzyme rich food in existence. What do these enzymes do? It's been found that the enzymes in honey are by and large most useful for digestion. You can test this by taking a spoonful of honey 30-60 minutes before your next meal. You will notice that after the meal it feels like you didn't eat anything at all, and you'll be hungry sooner. These enzymes in the lab have also cured every stomach disorder we know about. But ill talk more on that later.
This can have massive implications for the lifter whether you lift for strength, health, size or performance, the more food you can assimilate the faster your recovery and the greater your strength.
As a serious lifter and athlete the last thing I want to do is get sick...with anything at all. Honey has great antibacterial properties. So much so that in WWII it was used on wounds of burn victims mostly and later on, they found it healed much faster with less scar tissue.
What became apparent, however, was that despite all of the conflicting information, the most effective programs typically share common elements and principles. Rather than focusing on the different theories, it will serve you better to look at the big picture: the fundamentals. The intention of this article is to present the most effective training principles in a simple and clear fashion. If you design your next program based on these basic concepts, you will get results. When it comes to training for size and strength, this is "What Really Works":
Of course, if you are using the big, multi-joint exercises I suggested above, your core muscles are being challenged during the rest of your workout as well. By using functional, free weight, ground based, compound movements, you are involving your entire midsection to a huge extent. I also strongly advise against using any belts, wraps or straps during most of your regular training, as this can decrease the involvement of the important core stabilizers. These training accessories should be reserved for maximum lift attempts and competition, unless otherwise indicated for specific injuries.
Include stability training & unilateral (single leg, arm) movements
Incorporate some exercises that force you to balance on one leg or stabilize a weight with one arm, such as step ups, lunges, single arm press, etc. Working with odd objects such as kegs or sandbags also create a greater demand on your stabilizers and place a new stress on your body, leading to new results. These types of movements will increase the strength of your weaker side and develop your proprioceptive ability.
Balance the volume of training for (and the strength of) agonist and antagonist (opposing) muscle groups
This is an important principle for increasing strength, size, NMA, and preventing injuries. Basically, you want to balance the workload on both your pushing and pulling movements. The force and speed you can generate in a press or a throw is largely affected by the ability of the antagonist muscles to eccentrically stabilize the joint. If you cannot control deceleration, you can't accelerate to your full potential.
Research has also demonstrated that one can recuperate faster by performing a set for an antagonist muscle group between sets. This is known as Push-Pull Supersets, such as super-setting rows and chest presses, or pull-ups and overhead presses. It has been shown to maintain strength between sets, as well as stimulate hypertrophy.
Work on Your Muscular Imbalances
Muscle tension and joint pain is often due to compensation for joint instability or weakness in another muscle. This is where isolation exercises come into play. You need to train your weak links in isolation before you can incorporate them into a movement pattern. Otherwise, your dominant muscles will continue to compensate, leading to further muscular imbalances. Prime examples of common weak links are the posterior deltoids, external rotator cuff, lower trapezius, glute medius, vastus medialus, and often some core muscles.
Having said that, it is my opinion that in most cases it is a waste of time to perform an entire workout using only isolation exercises for small muscle groups (unless you are in a prehab / rehabilitation program). For example, a one hour workout just for "arms" is completely impractical. Each workout should stimulate a majority of target muscle groups with fewer exercises. Think of training movements, not muscles.
"Functional training" (integrated exercise) will only reinforce compensatory patterns if the weak links are not first identified and eliminated." -- Greg Roskopf, MA, founder Muscle Activation Techniques
In fact, strongman training ties in directly with most of the principles listed above (#2,3,4 & 5)! It involves compound, functional, ground based movements that strengthen your core and build balance. Strongman training is a fun and effective way to make your workout more productive, and is easy to incorporate into your regular training program. Give it a shot.
Here they are:
The FIRST benefit of this amino is that it is responsible for the preservation of skeletal muscle tissue, especially under stress. It does this through sparing muscle glycogen, an energy pathway to skeletal muscle contraction. Preserving the glycogen will save the tissue by giving more energy over a period of time delaying breakdown. This preservation means more endurance for the lifter, longer periods of peak muscular contraction. The European Journal of Applied Physiology did a test and supplemented rowers with Leucine over 6 weeks and found the rowing time of the individuals increased over one minute compared to no increase in the placebo group.
The SECOND, Leucine is responsible for nearly all protein synthesis in the body. Leucine present in the blood stream signals your cells to begin breaking down proteins into usable amino acids, more usable amino acids from a signal that is concentrated in the skeletal muscle means more aminos will be transported to the skeletal tissues, even bone. Yes, Leucine is also responsible for the healing of bone tissue.
Martha Stipanuk PhD from Cornell University says, "...it seems clear that most effects of the amino acids on protein synthesis are mediated by Leucine."
Also, there is also strong evidence that Leucine may increase Growth Hormone production in humans.
Hungry? Reckon you could polish off a 10lb turkey in only 12 minutes? Sonya 'The Black Widow' Thomas can.
Hungry? How about a 54" × 54" pizza. Delivered.
Bottled purified tap water. Seriously.
Despite the name, this'll churn out any sort of nut butter you like. Nuts in the top, jar below; perfect.
Via the Dallas Morning News : man, I'm hungry.
Sounds great. Anyone tried one yet?
This site is strangely appealing; particularly if you're always curious to see what other people are eating. Fridgewatcher.
But then I saw it. I saw an "l" meaning low. What was this? I looked at the number 39, then googled TRIG and came across triglycerides. I did not know what these were at the time, but I could tell that 39 was a good number for your TRIG's to be at.
Then I opened up my father's blood test. He had a few things that were high including cholesterol. Right underneath the cholesterol figures was his TRIG number: 416. The range given beside that number was 50-200, meaning that my fathers TRIG levels were twice as high as average!
When we talked to the doctor, the doctor said that my father had nothing to worry about. But, you know what, I don't trust doctors. Doctors today wait for a problem to happen before giving you a solution. And even that solution is a band aid solution such as increased medication. I don't want my dad to be taking any sort of medication ten years from now.
I did not know what triglycerides were exactly and what health risks they posed to you if they were high. So I decided to go and do my own research.
Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and the body. They are found in plasma and are derived from fats that we eat, or from food made from other energy sources such as carbohydrates. You've all heard that any calorie that we do not burn off we store as fat. Well, before this fat can be stored, the calories are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored.
Extremely high triglycerides (500mg/dl or higher) in plasma is known as hypertriglyceridemia and is often linked to coronary artery disease. According to The National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines, my father's TRIG levels are high (200 - 499 mg/dl). Once he breaks the 500 mark, he officially has hypertiglyceridemia.
I personally believe that my low TRIG levels come from my style of exercise and diet. According to my research, in order to lower your TRIG levels, you need to change your lifestyle habits and substitute them for healthier ones.
I once trained my father with my brand of exercise: heavy weight training performed at a high intensity with a fast pace. He lost 7 pounds in two weeks, and has kept the weight off. However, one day his only employee at his convenience store quit, leaving him to work 6 days a week. I have been trying to get him back under the weights ever since, but he just does not seem motivated to get back to working out. He claims that heavy weights are not good for him and he just needs to diet. Well, we can see how the diet only protocol is working out for him.
Since diet is a very important aspect of the problem, lets go over what I believe is the best way of lowering your TRIG levels. Many resources tell you to first cut your calories. However, I think it is more important to learn how to eat healthy. If I tell my father to cut calories, he'll just end up eating 1500 calories worth of junk food. That is not the solution to the problem. Instead, learn to eat the right foods first.
What are the right foods? Surprisingly the right foods are the same type of foods you would be eating if you want to lose weight. Start eating more fruits and veggies and make these your primary source of carbs. In addition, replace all your saturated and trans fat with healthy fats and Omega 3's.
Every time I went on the diet, I lost weight instantly and had tremendous energy during the day. But maintaining the diet was very tough. Hunger pangs are not fun, and most people can't eat 2000 calories at one meal like Mr. Ori can.
Ori Hofmekler must be one tough cat. Anyone who follows the Warrior Diet is tough. Maybe I'm just not as tough. But then again, it's hard to eat 6 times a day. I've basically come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter how many times a day you eat, but instead what you eat. The funny thing is that both the Warrior Diet and the 6-times a day eating philosophy revolve around one thing: increasing your metabolism. The Warrior Diet claims that under-eating will detoxify your body, making your body run more efficiently; then when you do eat your evening meal, your body will be able to use those nutrients more effectively. Makes sense. But what's the use if you can't stick to it? I think eating 2000 calories throughout the day is a much better idea than eating 2000 calories in one sitting.
But Under eating, from what I've discovered, doesn't mean that you starve yourself. It means that you eat less than you normally do to prevent a tremendous increase in insulin. Ori goes on to talk about the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and how the SNS is what wakes us up and the PSNS is what puts us to sleep.
Those insulin spikes are the real enemy, in my view. What I discovered through following the Warrior Diet was that I was extremely carb-sensitive. It was the carbs that were making me fat. I decided it was better to control my carbs rather than not eat anything through out the day and then eat what I crave (carbs) at night. I was probably only eating 1000 calories a day on the diet, but the percentage of carbs were huge. Further more, it did not solve the fact that I needed to eat more protein in my diet. Before the warrior diet, I was eating approximately 80 grams of protein a day. Yes, I know, not optimal, but on the Warrior Diet, that number would often drop down to 50 grams.
No fat, no sugar, and plenty of surfing. Sounds good to me.
Via Fast Food Fever : feel the need for a feed? Check out the Hamburger Harley.
Nutrient Dense carbohydrates contain lots of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. These are carbohydrates such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, apples, and other fruits and vegetables. Calorie Dense carbohydrates contain lower amounts of vitamins, minerals and more calories from actual carbohydrates. Examples of these foods are rice, pasta, corn, flour tortillas, and breads. You want your diet to be full of nutrient dense carbohydrates all the time and then you want to eat calorie dense carbohydrates in the couple hours following your workouts.
The fact that they also taste good is just a bonus. Love spinach.
Recently I was invited to review Snapple's new range of Antioxidant Water (thanks Deana). I have to say, it's an interesting idea.
Snapple - currently a part of the gargantuan Cadbury-Schweppes group - announced a new range of flavoured waters late last year (press release); Snapple's Antioxidant Water. These are fruit-flavoured drinks, together with the almost obligatory dose of sugar, which sit comfortably alongside the various iced teas and fruit juices already available.
One of the changes I made in my own diet a number of years ago was to stop consuming carbonated drinks. In fact, aside from the occasional beer or glass of wine, my drinks are generally either water (right now, it's at a few litres per day - here's how to work out the 'optimal' amount), coffee (usually one 1 cup per day) or green tea (hot or iced - depending on the weather). Accordingly, I was intrigued to try out the Antioxidant Water.
First let me point out that there are seven flavours in the range, and - so far - I've only tried four of them (marked with *).
The flavours are :
Having said that, the drinks are a little sweet for my tastes. Similar to many flavoured teas - fine in small doses.
What do you do when you can't afford - or don't have access to - grass-fed beef? Substitute another meat source, or skip it entirely?
Mark Sisson takes a look. A good read.
Looking for healthy meals that don't taste like cardboard? Josef Brandenburg has a few ideas.
What do you look for when choosing a multivitamin? Mark Sisson has a few thoughts.
My estimated nutrition facts are for 1 serving size of 1 english muffin (which is the serving size pictured):
Calories = 250
Carbohydrates = 30g
Fiber = 5.5g
Sugars = 4
Fat = 8g
Protein = 14g
NOTE: The best part about these is that they are really quick & easy to make!
Via Fight Geek : a look at a whole foods, and how they relate to the body. Very interesting.
Interesting interview - part II here.
Print this out, grab a drink and pull up a chair. This is a good one.
Actually, it's strangely appealing.
What's your take on soy? Here's Mark Sisson's - a good read.
Chris Shugart's Homemade Half-Calorie Granola - anything but a 'nutritionally bankrupt love-handle fertilizer'. Great phrase.
If you missed the previous article in this series on Fitness and Food, you can grab it here :
Straight after a workout I find myself eating anything which is put in front of me; and I suspect I'm not alone in this. To make sure it's something reasonably nutritious, I decided to knock up my own protein bars.
As you'll see below, there are a number of ways in which you can adjust this to suit your own tastes. This is simply a basic recipe which I noticed over on Stumptuous, and which works well.
Now, this isn't an exact science. As long as you have about the same amount of each ingredient, you'll be fine.
The quantities above will make around a 6" x 8" tray.
This recipe can take quite a few changes. Feel free to experiment with different protein powders, types of flour (ground oats work really well) and the many varieties of nut butter available.
Also worth experimentation is the addition of spices to the flour (personal favourites : cinnamon and nutmeg). When you come up with a winning combination, be sure to leave a comment below.
Other additions (and there are bonus points for trying any of these, they're fantastic) include pieces of fruit (mmm...bananas), nuts and seeds. Experiment.
Some things never change - great to see. Jack LaLanne on gaining weight.
Via LIFT : I enjoy a bowl of ice-cream every now and then, but $25,000 worth?
"I don't feel sorry for those who lack the discipline to eat more." - J.M. Blakley
One of the many problems with our society is that people are too spoiled. They want things immediately and with as little work as possible. This applies to people who whine about how they cannot gain weight, no matter how much they eat, but usually they eat like a mouse, nibbling at their food. Imagine if these same people were forced to live in a third-world country or in a combat zone.
The fact is that if the guy trying to bulk up lifts like a madman in the gym, yet refuses to eat with the same zeal and effort, he's going to fail. If he refuses to ingest a surplus amount of calories from food after burning what the body needs for normal, daily functions of the body, along with exercise, sports, etc., his bodyweight will not increase. He needs to eat more than his body burns. It is a very simple concept.
I was always a very skinny kid, growing up. In high school, I weighed 100-110lbs. When I was in the U.S. Army, I weighed ~125lbs after returning from Iraq, in September 2003. I put on some pounds after I started training consistently again in 2004, then gained approximately 30lbs (145-175lbs) from 2004 to 2007. I really struggled to pack on the pounds, especially around 2004 and 2005, but after much frustration, realized that the "trick" was to eat massive amounts of the three macronutrients (protein, lipid, and carbohydrate) and calories in general, sometimes until I was physically sick, spending many nights sitting on the toilet. At that point, I began seeing much greater gains in bodyweight. It was very difficult, but I was successful because I stopped making excuses such as, "My metabolism is too fast!" or "I don't have enough time to eat!", etc.
I also came to the realization that to add any significant weight to my frame, I needed to eat things which most people consider unhealthy and what bodybuilders call a "dirty bulk", such as pizza, twinkies, lasagna, chocolate, burgers, fries, etc. I only purchased and ate food which contained the most calories, never wasting my time with anything that had the words "low carb", "diet", or "light" on the package or wrapper. Plus, I ate more often, whenever I had free time, if possible, and there were plenty of times that I tried to exceed my threshold of feeling full, pushing past that feeling. Also, when I was younger, I did not like butter, but now I put butter on my bread on a regular basis. Little things like that can make a difference, combined with other changes.
Over at Conditioning Rearch Chris points to a few interesting pieces on the benefits of (moderate) red wine consumption. Of course, if you're not ready to go down the bottle-cork-glass path, there's always wine in a can. Mmmm.
Via Mark's Daily Apple : Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) is one of my favourite grains, and does pretty well in the complete protein stakes. Here's a quick (extremely filling) snack that's perfect for the lunchtime gym-eat-work rush. Love it.
Over at Conditioning Research Chris points to an interesting study on the effects of alternate-day fasting (as per routines such as The QOD Diet) in mice. There's still a way to go before the long-term effects of similar diets are discovered for humans, but it's a great start.
Although I'm not exactly looking to lose weight (gain, actually), I'm intrigued by the various approaches to fat loss. In a recent comment, Clay mentioned the Fast-5 Diet (there's a free eBook there explaining the concept) - has anyone tried this?
The Got Strength? Blog takes a brief look at two studies on my favourite beverage (other than water) - green tea. Short version - a miracle cure it isn't, but there are health benefits aplenty. Good stuff.
What do you think? Do you drink a lot of fruit juice?
Contrary to popular belief, it's often possible to convert everyday recipes into their 'bodybuilder friendly' equivalents with a couple of simple substitutions. Chris Shugart explains how.
I'm not sure whether to feel concerned or just plain hungry. Either way, this is certainly unusual way to use Google Maps.
Occasionally I find myself taking a rigorous look at my diet, and noting down everything I eat and drink. Here's a look at a few of my favourite sites for doing just that.
If there were a Dave Tate School of Nutrition, this site would be a major sponsor. Man, I'm hungry.
Via Get Outdoors : You know it's almost lunchtime when I start coming across stuff like this - Costco's Emergency Food Kit. 275 servings of pre-mixed goodness just waiting for the next Nuclear war, camping trip or lengthy session in the garage gym.
With several members of my family in either the 'I have diabetes' or the 'high risk' camp, as well as a high-profile advertising campaign (it was National Diabetes Week here recently); a quick look at Diabetes was definitely on the cards. In particular, a few dietary changes that can make a massive difference.
I'm an Omnivore is Jeremiah Reid's exploration of a paleolithic diet; using his own as a test subject. If you've wondered just what would happen if you eliminated dairy products, refined sugar and overly-processed foods; read on.
Via Diet Blog : Ah, those wacky Japanese. Even fast food isn't safe from downsizing.
Funnily enough, the first thing that came to mind when I saw this, is 'I wonder how many of those I could get through?'.
In an attempt to help address the local obesity situation, organisers of the Taste of Buffalo food festival have declared that all vendors are to provide at least one healthy option. Whilst their definition of 'healthy' is open to debate, this is definitely a move in the right direction.
Perhaps not the greatest thing for encouraging clean eating, but definitely one of the strangest - bacon-flavoured toothpicks.
Low-carb diets are controversial at the best of times, and I'm very interested to see how this one goes. Muscle Ventures' Bud Gibson bares all (metaphorically, that is) as he combines an Atkins diet with a healthy dose of strength training. Should be good.
Looking for grass-fed beef in your state (North America only)? Head over to the Eat Wild site.
The Natural Bodybuilding Principles blog points to two great articles by Matt Danielsson concerning supplementation for bodybuilders. This quote neatly sums up Matt's view (and my own) on the subject :
Hard training and good food will take you 90% of the way. People got buff 50 years ago, before the supplement market was a gazillion-dollar industry.
As a reformed supplement junkie, this is very interesting reading.
Hungry? You will be after reading some of these.
I'll be in the kitchen if you need me.
Via Diet-Blog : The BBC has produced many great series over the years, and one of their latest - The Truth About Food - is certainly high on the list. To see what all the fuss is about, head over to the official site and watch one of the numerous clips they've put online. Not bad at all.
Christine Petty and Royce Mills are out to prove that strength does not have to equate to size. In what's been dubbed 'The Great Pudge Off '07', both are out to rid themselves of some excess baggage in fairly quick time.
The penalty for coming second? In a move reminiscent of Dan John's infamous Alpo goal-setting technique, the runner-up (I'm reluctant to use the word 'loser' here, as they both stand to gain great things) will suffer the indignity of posing in a blonde wig and skirt. Ahem.
Whilst I think I'll survive not seeing the wig/skirt photo, I'm curious as to the change in strength and strength-endurance both will see. Should be good.
Diet Blog notes several resources (and poses a couple of interesting questions) on saturated fats; in light of the current book-promotion tour of Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions). As always, the comments are definitely worth reading.
My personal view : everything in moderation (when it comes to diet, that is). Now the tricky part - just how big is a moderate serve of something?
children who grow up eating homegrown produce prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods
This seems entirely reasonable to me. There's just something deeply satisfying about walking out into the yard to grab some food; rather than relying solely on a trip to the local supermarket.
How about you - do you grow any of your own food? Herbs perhaps?
Just when I thought I was already getting enough caffeine. Buzzwater.
Dr Eric Serrano is a nutritionist with some fascinating - and, at times, controversial - opinions on sports nutrition and supplementation. John Paul Catanzaro talks to him about stress, hormones and fat loss. A great read.
Tim Ferriss is a very interesting guy. Over a number of years he's managed to reduce the time he spends working (but not necessarily his output) to a tiny 4 hours per week, simply to spend more time pursuing his other interests; chief among them, MMA.
His blog contains an intriguing blend of productivity tips, dietary and fitness information; a great example of which is the piece How to lose 20lb of fat in 30 days.
NB : If you're anything like me, and eat large amounts of bread, rice and pasta on a routine basis, this isn't going to be easy. Sounds like a challenge.
Where do you stand?
Via Dr Michael Eades : whilst it may not be the pinnacle of rigorous scientific analysis, this Morgan Spurlock video [streaming, 12.2mb .flv download] might just make you think twice about ordering the fries on your next visit to McDonalds. Not to mention the burgers.
In the face of a growing obesity problem, the Australian government has asked fast-food retailers across the country to greatly reduce the quantity of trans-fats in their cooking. So far, many retailers seem to be agreeable to the idea - particularly with the unfavourable response anticipated by a negative reaction.
A hamburger from the local take-away is fast becoming a reasonable idea.
Despite trying on several occasions to quit coffee, the caffeine addiction just keeps powering on. Still, at only 2-3 cups per week, I'm far better off than I used to be.
These, however, look tempting. Chewing gum-like strips of caffeinated goodness. Perfect for a pre-workout hit I suspect. Anyone tried them?
From the Daily Mail (yes, I know) :
The good news -
Coffee could hold the secret to curing male baldness, according to new research [abstract only].
The bad news -
Scientists estimate up to 60 cups a day would be needed for significant amounts to reach follicles in the scalp.
It doesn't seem to matter how many powdered egg products are on the market, none of them taste - that I've found so far - as good as the real thing. If you're also in the 'real egg' camp, you may appreciate some of the science behind boiling the perfect egg.
If the idea of keeping a length of string in the kitchen sounds like one step too far (I can already see the neighbours snickering and pointing), take a look at the Foolproof Egg Timer. Instead of recording time, it goes in the water with the eggs and records temperature; taking into account the number of eggs, amount of water and altitude. Beautiful.
Oh, and if you want to fill up the kitchen gadget drawer, there's always Clack. On second thoughts, perhaps that belongs with the string.
See also :
Slightly less scientific is the art of peeling the eggs. But an 'impeccably clean sink'?
Just came across Rockit Pops. Anyone tried them?
If you're looking for an alternative to FitDay, take a wander over to The Daily Plate. My only gripe so far is their maximum daily recordable water consumption of 8 glasses (hey, it gets hot here). Other than that, it's all good.
Before diving into the subject of 'Fuel and Rest', lets take a look at the reasons for resting in the first place. It's all related.
Breaking this down, we have three basic periods of rest :
rest breaks between workout sets
These breaks serve to allow the body a return to a 'normal' (for that individual) range - particularly the heartrate. This slowing of heartrate is accompanied by a more regular breathing pattern.
Rest breaks also serve to replenish the body's stores of both ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) and CP (creatine phosphate) . A shorter break (say, less than 2 minutes) increases reliance on LA (lactic acid) in the following set. Lactic acid itself, elevated during periods of intense exercise, returns to normal levels after 30-60 minutes .
These fall into two categories. The first is a 15-20 min 'power nap', which is usually performed within a work environment as a way of recharging the batteries. Although the deeper sleep phases are not reached during this time, the nap is sufficient to regain a good percentage of mental alertness. A quick note on why this works: spending time awake gradually throws the body's sodium/potassium levels out. Sodium and potassium are involved in the transportation of chemicals into and out of your brain, and the less effective these are the more tired you feel. A bit of time in the Theta state (deep relaxation or meditation) resets these levels, leaving you feeling refreshed.
The second is a longer nap - 90 minutes or so. This is the type I personally favour (and having recently made the switch to biphasic sleeping I can clearly see the benefits), and includes all phases of sleep. From personal experience, this length of nap yields an almost complete return to mental alertness.
Nature had not intended mankind to work from 8 in the morning until midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.
This is a more complete version of the second nap variety mentioned above. Once again the body is moved through all phases of sleep - long enough this time to redress various imbalances that have occurred throughout the day, as well as release several chemicals for routine maintenance and regular function.
Briefly, the major changes include the resetting (return to normal levels) of :
Via Medical News Today : the current issue of the open access Nutrition Journal contains an interesting study on Low-carb diets. Despite common fears that people on low-carb diets replace carbs with fatty foods, the study by Richard Feinman, PhD (professor of biochemistry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center) and co found that over half of those studied increased their salad greens, and a third doubled their helpings of vegetables.
The sample group? The 90,000 members of the Active Low-Carber Forum. Very interesting.
When you're lifting weights, how long do you rest between sets? Chances are it's time based - 30sec, 2 minutes etc. In this article I'll look at the use of your pulserate to determine when to begin the next set.
I first came across this concept in the article Bulgarian Leg Training Secrets . In it, Angel Spassov and Terry Todd write :
The Bulgarian team uses the pulse rate as a gauge to let them know how far to take the sets. They believe that each of the moderate to heavy sets should produce a pulse rate of 162-180 beats per minute. The lifter doesn't begin his next set until his pulse has dropped to between 102 and 108. The Bulgarian team does virtually this same workout five or six days a week, along with quite a lot of other leg work that goes with the snatch and the clean and jerk.
Now, before you race off and start measuring your pulse during sets of heavy step-ups (if you don't do them, they're well worth considering), there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first of these is your resting pulserate.
Measuring your pulse rate
Keep in mind that this is your resting pulserate, so there's no point taking it right after an activity or when you're stressed out at work. The usual time to take it is first thing in the morning.
There are a couple of ways to take it. The manual option is to place two fingers over one of the pulse points (this video [.mov, .07mb] shows where they are) and count how many beats there are during a one minute period. Typical figures are shown below.
The second method is to use a device such as a pulse monitor watch, which essentially does the same thing (you pay for the convenience and consistency). Either way, write down the resting pulserate - preferably every day. This should gradually come down as your fitness improves - eventually it will level off, but that could take a while.
Typical resting pulse rates
Note that these are typical values for the population at large - these rates will vary according to your personal fitness and certain medical conditions.
Babies to age 1: 100-160 bpm
Children ages 1 to 10: 60-140 bpm
Children age 10+ and adults: 60-100 bpm
Well-conditioned athletes: 40-60 bpm
Factors affecting pulse rate
If your resting pulse is well outside these ranges, the cause could be one or more of the following :
Activity: try to measure your pulse before you even get out of bed in the morning. Once you've had time to wake up fully, jump out of bed, get stressed about work etc it's too late. Keep a watch beside your bed.
Fever: one of the reasons for measuring your pulse every day is that it is often an early sign of illness. If your body is trying to fight something off, your pulse will probably be elevated.
Hyperthyroidism: an overactive thyroid gland can push up a pulse rate.
Anemia: anemia is a lack of oxygen in the blood. This can be caused by a number of things (iron deficiency and vitamin B12 deficiency are the most common), and will typically be associated with a higher pulse.
Stimulants: caffeine is perhaps the most common - so avoid that cup of coffee before checking your pulse. Other stimulants include cigarettes, amphetimines, decongestants, diet pills and asthma medications.
Heart disease: This may be direct (such as Tachycardia or Bradycardia), or indirect (such as the many forms of ischaemic heart disease). Whatever the case, see a doctor before embarking on any sort of fitness quest.
The second consideration is your active pulse rate. Once you've measured your resting pulse for a week or two you'll have an idea of how fit you are when you're not doing anything, and you'll know when you start to come down with a cold. Now you need to find out just how much your pulse changes with a bit of strength training.
This is the maximum heart rate your body will sustain in its present condition. Although most closely associated with age, the HR(Max) will vary between same-aged individuals with differing fitness profiles.
An estimate of HR(Max) often used by gym-goers and trainers alike is :
HR(Max) = 220 - age of the individual
This is by no means a detailed assessment of fitness, but it will give you an idea.
Other research by Miller et al (1993)  and Londeree and Moeschberger (1982)  proposes alternatives to this formula. An estimate combining all three approaches may be found on the Sports Coach site .
According to a report in this month's issue of Cell Metabolism, a study [subscription required, abstract] of rats revealed that brain activity in hunger centres spiked with the first taste of food. This goes a long way to scientifically supportting the idea of hors d'ouevres being to whet the appetite.
Interestingly, the mere thought of food was also enough to spark a bit of brain activity - a notion which seems more than a little plausible.
Medical News Today mentions an interesting study by the Université de Montréal on the effects of caffeine consumption on daytime vs nighttime sleep. The findings, published in the current issue of Neuropsychopharmacology, indicate that a cup of coffee at night has much more impact on subsequent daytime sleep than one in the daytime has on nocturnal sleep.
It really doesn't take much to make me hungry.
If, like me, you've got John Berardi's Precision Nutrition on your wishlist (and I'm yet to hear of anyone who bought it and is less than 110% satisfied); his latest email nutrition course may be a good interim solution.
You can learn a lot in 5 days.
Dave provides several tips for improving the quality of your sleep, but perhaps more interesting are some of the resources mentioned in the article. These include :
Bedtime Story : John Berardi
Berardi looks at the many nighttime protein powders on the market.
Stop the Catabolic Insanity : Dave Barr
Another look into late night snacks and nocturnal feedings. Currently I occasionally leave a whey + milk shake by the bed overnight, and drink that if/when I wake up in the middle of it. It sounds as though this occasionally should be regularly.
According to the article, strength coach Nick Polasek states that
You want to have your drink right beside the bed, fall asleep, only to wake up 8 hours later to discover your drink container empty.
Sounds perfect - automatic drinking.
Also worthy of further investigation is the tip on napping. I realise that the idea of 'power napping' has both loyal followers and ardent skeptics, but I'm yet to see any firm data either way. Still, I do like the occasional (time permitting) brief nap once I've reached near-total exhaustion. 15-20 minutes seems to do the trick.
If your diet's suffering from a lack of willpower, you might like to try this. It's a glass jar with a timer, and attempting to remove the contents before the set time is up will result in a mildly painful electric shock.
Somehow I don't think it's ready for hamburgers, meat pies and ice cream though :)
Steve Vaught - perhaps better known as the 'Fat Man Walking' - has crossed the finish line. The outcome? Well, apart from attracting a good amount of media attention, he's managed to lose nearly 7 stone (45kg) since leaving home last year.
Not bad at all.
Before heading back down to warmer climes I decided to try a few of the beers which rarely make it as far as Australian shelves (there'd be a fair bit of competition if they did). Tonight I came across the unusually named Riggwelter.
Riggwelter is a strong (5.7% alcohol by volume) ale from Yorkshire's Black Sheep brewery. It's an excellent drop. As for the name - which was the thing which caught my eye in the first place - it's from the Old Norse words rygg (back) and velte (to overturn). When a sheep is on its back and cannot get up without assistance, it is said to be rigged or riggwelted in the local dialect.
After a few of those I can testify to knowing exactly what they mean.
A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 liters daily in most instances. An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 milliliter for each calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.
The 2.5 litres was changed to 8 x 8 fluid ounce cups in later recommendations, but is otherwise unchanged.
A couple of things are worth noting about this information (which hasn't really changed in over 60 years). The first is the line 'An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 milliliter for each calorie of food'. This seems much more reasonable to me - tying water consumption to caloric intake - than simply drinking 2.5 litres of water. It would seem sensible that an athlete consuming 4,000 kCals per day would require a greater water consumption than one getting through 1,500 (for health reasons - we're not talking about preparing for bodybuilding competions here).
I hate to admit it, but this week I seem to have joined Steph in the world of slackness - at least as far as weight training is concerned. It's incredible how slothful you can feel following a week without deadlifting; only sporadic bodyweight sessions kept things from getting completely out of hand.
Time to crank up the volume and get back into it...in the meatime, here are a couple of pieces which appeared during the week :
Converting to Sumo Deadlifting: How I Made It Work for Me
This is an excellent look at how short arms and a long torso are not the ultimate weapons in the deadlift. South Carolina Barbell's Marc Bartley discusses the differences between US and European pulling styles, kettlebell training for the deadlift, and adjusting the sumo stance a little. Overall, a great read.
Barefoot and Sledgehammer training
We train the hands, so why not the feet? According to the Parisi Speed School's Martin Rooney, the feet are just as - if not more - important. In this audio interview (.mp3, 5.7 mb) he details exactly why.
The interview also touches on the topic of sledgehammer training for athletes, and how Rooney uses it in similar ways to modern Clubbell routines.
21st century eating
The first is timing. I never have coffee as an accompaniment to a meal; instead it's considered a relaxing treat. The aroma and flavour - in fact the entire experience of preparing/serving/drinking it - is far more important than simply drinking it for short-term benefits as a stimulant. For this reason, it never coincides with a pre-workout meal.
The second is quantity. The days of drinking 5-6 cups in a row are not set to make a return because, quite honestly, I get hungry after the second cup and my mind switches instantly into food mode. Hunger makes everything else seem insignificant.
Nary a day goes by without one study or another looking at the effects of caffeine consumption. Strong coffee, caffeine tablets, soft drinks etc; yet the subjects of such studies are rarely those involved in weight training, or even some form of regular exercise. Instead, many of the studies focus on the average adult with what is believed to be a typical caffeine consumption.
For those of you not on a strict diet, take a look at eggbaconchipsandbeans. It's a guide to London's (and fast becoming international) greasy spoons. I'll never look at a humble hot breakfast the same way again.
A few months ago I decided to add a weekly dose of organic vegetables to my diet. These came in the form a large box, delivered each Friday, which contained an assortment of whatever was available that week.
Whilst the food itself was good, the delivery prompt and the service generally as expected; one major problem arose. I realised that a bit of dietary variety can be great - as long as I get to make the choices.
This effectively means that my quest for organic foods isn't quite as important as the quest for the right types of foods. Imported, pesticide-laden broccoli may not be quite as healthy as its organic counterpart, but it's an awful lot better than none at all.
I've gradually realised the order of importance with the major food production techniques (once the basic diet has been sorted out). These are :
Occasionally (the nearest supermarket is Morrison's - not known for bounteous healthful produce) the stars align, and several - or even all - of the above techniques coincide. Healthy and politically satisfying.
Not that I've been having much of either lately, but this article claims that wine and cheese simply don't suit each other. Or rather, cheese can dull the taste of the wine.
Now, wine and a good stir-fry...
Ahead of the smoking ban in England, and timed to coincide with a similar ban in Scotland, BT has announced two major changes to its smoking policy. The first is the closure of dedicated smoking rooms from its buildings (and with 85,000 staff, there are a few of them), and a limited use of outside smoking shelters is to be employed for those who 'have to smoke'.
The second is - perhaps more of a concern to many smoking staff - a ban on smoking in BT vehicles whilst being used on company time. I personally don't see anything wrong with this ban - after all it is the first place many people see a representative of the company. Obviously they wish to control this appearance to some extent.
Why are they doing this? Quite apart from the stated health concerns, smoking costs business money. A brief break for a cigarette here and there, increased use of sick leave, appearance to the company's non-smoking customers. And with that many staff it all adds up.
From the article :
For decades, scientists have wondered how living organisms manufacture the essential vitamin B12. Now, using laundry whitener and dirt-dwelling bacteria--the everyday ingredients of an undergraduate science experiment--researchers may have found the major clue they need to solve the mystery.
No more smoking in England - at least in enclosed public places - from summer 2007. That's what MPs voted for yesterday (winning by a large majority), and it seems like an 'it's about time' move. A good one, and much needed.
Naturally, the media here has uncovered several smokers who are resistant to the ban. One smoker speaking to the BBC complained :
"What? No way, they can't do that," said one woman in a smoky west London pub shortly after MPs voted for a blanket ban.
Her two friends, both with cigarettes in hand and fag ends in an ashtray, were also aghast.
"It's people's choice to smoke. What about people who just want to relax with a smoke and a drink?" said 20-year-old Freya Eden.
A smoker for five years, she said the ban would not encourage people to stop smoking.
For starters, a 20-year-old who has been smoking for 5 years (the legal minimum age here is 16, by the way) has not witnessed the change over the past few decades or so. In the 1970s it would seem normal to see people smoking on television, and in the workplace. Both are now illegal (although some US Congressmen continue to smoke in their offices) and rarely considered. In another decade it would seem decidely odd to want to smoke in a pub.
Another couple spoken to about the ban (again by the BBC) was a man 'having a swift pint with his pregnant partner'. It would seem their views on a smoking ban - for health reasons - are somewhat misguided.
The idea is simple : drink a cup of coffee and immediately take a brief (15-20min) nap. This helps clear the body of adenosine, a chemical commonly believed to make you drowsy.
An interesting study is being carried out by a team at Melbourne's (Australia) Howard Florey Institute, in which the plasticity of pain responses is being assessed. Their latest findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate that pain is increased at times of mild thirst (if you're wondering, thumbscrews and a saline solution).
Think I'll skip the thumbscrews, but it is another reason to drink plenty of water both during and after workouts.
Last night I finally got around to watching Super Size Me, in which Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonalds' food for 30 days. In addition he performed no exercise during the period, and restricted walking to the pathetically low average of less than 5000 steps per day.
Whilst I wasn't at all surprised to see a few health problems appear over the month; I was quite amazed at their severity. In fact, it took over a year for him to regain his former weight - let alone his former health. Very interesting documentary.
The news this morning was filled with stories linking diet not simply to physical health problems, but also several mental health issues. It's clear that a lot more research needs to be done.
As for my own diet experimentation, this morning was the first fortnightly record of a few basic measurements. The primary goal is weight gain, however I'll also be tracking a few of the other regulars.
Recently John asked how the new meal plan is going. Here's a little more information.
It's now been just over a week on the new planned diet. I've been using this week to simply get used to eating to a plan - testing my ability to adhere to a plan before I begin tracking progress.
This first week has highlighted a few things.
Tomorrow I'll begin noting bodyweight changes (every two weeks) - the primary goal is to bulk up to 100kg (225lb) without putting on a load of fat. I suspect I'm about 82-84 at the moment.
Over the past couple of years I've gradually been eating more and more fish (actually, seafood in general). If you're getting sick of tinned tuna and on the verge of wandering over to the fish counter in your supermarket, here are a couple of things to bear in mind *.
Firstly, you will often have a choice of a wet fish slab, and a selection of shrink-wrapped fish in much the same way as beef, pork and lamb is sold. The area with the slab is usually no better than an indifferent fishmonger; you may actually be better off buying the shrink-wrapped stuff.
The reason for this is simple. Unlike the fish on the slab, anything pre-packaged must display a 'best before' date. With Health Department regulations the way they are, most of the large supermarkets favour a 4 day maximum from the time they receive delivery of the fish to the time it should be consumed. What's more, the pre-packaged fish will usually be cleaned and filleted in order to retain a reasonable appearance for the full 4 days.
Because of the regulations, there are stringent procedures governing the pre-packaged fish; which is often given precedence over the fish on the slab. If you buy the pre-packaged fish within 24 hours of it being placed in the chill cabinet, there is a very good chance that it will be in better condition than the stuff on the slab.
When to buy? Shortly after it's delivered is obviously best, and keep in mind that there is still a big 'fish on friday' mentality in the UK. With Saturday being a busy shopping day in any case, many of the larger supermarkets have a major delivery on Friday mornings.
Having said all this, you may be wondering why I don't simply go to a fishmonger or a seafood market. Well, a good fishmonger is a rare thing and if you live near one, you're extremely lucky. Luckier still are those living within reach of a good seafood market. As for my current location, it's been known for centuries for its shipbuilding, not fishing. So it's the local supermarket for the time being.
Just a few changes - including the nutritional details from actual foods where possible. Feedback is more than welcome.
It's been a long road. For years I’ve been surrounded by coffee drinkers (they're not exactly hard to find), have worked in cafés, held meetings in large bookstores accompanied by several cups of espresso, and sampled delights from around the world at various coffee festivals. Enough is enough.
From a daily 8-10 cups a couple of years ago, I managed to work things down to a cup every few weeks. That was a few months back, and within a fortnight I was creeping back up to a routine hit every morning. I could feel the wide eyes and maniacal smile coming on.
Two weeks ago I decided to ditch the coffee - at least temporarily - in favour of green tea. Whilst this is certainly lower in caffeine, I quickly started to drink enough of it to really feel the effect.
Now, finally, I think it's time to disentangle myself from the strange world of caffeine once and for all. I don't drink caffeinated drinks for the 'buzz', but only because I like the taste of them. In a way this makes it easier; rather than categorically state 'this is my last coffee' (which tends to make me want another one). I'll simply stop drinking it.
Unless it smells really, really good.
OK, here's the first draft of a basic diet plan. Note that I seem to need around 4,000 cals per day just to remain at the same weight - I'm hoping that the extra 250 will be enough for a bit of weight gain.
|porridge and fruit (usually frozen berries)||686||123||27||2|
|whey + bananas + soy milk + oats||845||117||60||5|
|whey + bananas + soy milk + oats||845||117||60||5|
|baked potatoes + tuna||587||44||88||3|
|chicken salad - with spinach, tomato, avocado, various nuts and seeds||452||9||31||29|
+ rice/pasta + steamed veg
* chicken, turkey, beef, tuna, salmon
|cottage cheese with fruit||220||9||33||2|
As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated.
Update: as requested, an excel spreadsheet is now available. This includes a few tweaks as suggested.
OK, before the year really gets going it's time to define a few nutritional goals for 2006. The main ones are :
Everything else stems from these; especially the increased bodyweight.
Before I plan out an actual diet, here's a sample of the things I eat currently. I'd be very appreciative of any suggestions on these, as the final versions of them will form the basis of my basic eating plan. I'm also very interested in ideas for meals to help achieve these goals - as you can see, it's currently a very short list.
porridge and fruit (usually frozen berries)
chicken/turkey + rice/pasta + steamed vegetables
tuna + rice/pasta + steamed vegetables
baked potatoes + tuna
whey + fruit (usually bananas) + soy milk + honey (occasionally)
stone fruits, berries, bananas
juices (any fruit that's available)
boiled eggs (whites only)
nuts and seeds
In addition to this I take the usual vitamins: a multivitamin, vitamin C, fish oil.
Lately I've been reading several articles by nutritionist Dr John Berardi (thanks John for originally pointing me in his direction) and his latest piece on T-Nation is certainly a worthwhile addition to the collection. Tailor-made nutrition (part 1, part 2, part 3) looks at the overall approach to setting up a nutrition program; including the mistakes often made in the process and how to correct them.
Of particular note was this quote, which was enough to force a bit of chin-stroking and quiet contemplation on my part :
'Most people try to measure the variables; they count calories, grams of carbs, etc. - all of which is largely a waste of time. Rather, you should set the variables in advance (meal plan) hold the variables constant (execution), and instead measure the results.'
I'm afraid that even during particularly healthy points in my diet, I'm still in the 'most people' category. However, when this approach is compared to the approach often taken in training (plan, lift, record, ascertain progress) it is clear that a bit of careful planning is called for.
There's an interesting piece on today's BBC Scotland site, concerning the way in which the world is beginning to see the Scottish diet. Under the spotlight is the deep-fried Mars Bar (I think the Mars Bar here is known as a Milky Way in the US), which, despite a few claims to the contrary, is not exactly difficult to find.
Apart from the overall nutritional value of this concoction, the most worrying aspect of the situation must be the way in which Scotland is considered overseas. How does everyone think of Scotland - not as it used to be, but as it is now?
In looking a bit more carefully at my diet for next year, I realised I need to work out my current energy expenditure before trying to gain a few kilos. Working out how many calories you're currently burning up (and consequently how many you need to eat, just to maintain your weight) is a fairly straightforward process, beginning with your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).
Now, before you can plug in the numbers, there are a couple of things you'll need to know. As well as your current weight you'll need to know your level of bodyfat. There are several ways to measure this, though the quickest way to get a rough idea is using the US DoD formula I outlined recently.
Calculating your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
As I'm sure you're aware, the body requires a certain amount of energy just to keep ticking over. This is without doing anything at all, and it's the first step in the process of determining how many calories you need to consume every day.
The RMR is often used interchangeably with the BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate, and is close enough to the same thing for most purposes (the BMR actually refers to the energy required whilst sleeping, and the RMR is the energy required to simply rest all day). Perhaps surprisingly, the RMR makes up over half of your daily calorie expenditure. There are several equations for estimating this, although the most popular is perhaps the Cunningham Equation :
BMR (kCal/day) = 500 + (22 x LBM)
NB : LBM = lean body mass, and is simply your weight minus bodyfat.
For me, BMR = 500 + (22 x 84 x (1-0.16)) = 2052
The RMR may also be calculated using the Ravussin, Harris-Benedict, Nelson, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Schofield equations. A comparison of their effectiveness (at least for the measurement of obese children) can be seen here.
It's that time of year again. Before setting my health and fitness goals for 2006, I decided to check the status of a few things first. One of these is my current level of bodyfat - last estimated back in April this year.
Once again I used the same technique as used by the US Department of Defense, the formula being :
% body fat = 86.010 x log10(abdomen - neck) - 70.041 x log10(height) + 36.76
Note that the formula is a little different for females :
% body fat = 163.205 x log10(waist + hip - neck) - 97.684 x log10(height) - 78.387
My coffee consumption has gone through a few ups and downs over the years. Gone are the heady days of 8-10 cups (and very little sleep); more recently it's been a regular morning cup with my flatmate before we go our separate ways for the day.
As she's currently overseas for a fortnight, it's an ideal time to test the strength of my addiction. Of course, the high-caffeine green tea filling the cupboards will no doubt act as a replacement. At least for a few days.
The BBC reported this morning that over £1 billion was spent this year on organic produce. Whilst this may sound like a lot, it's only a fraction (less than 1%) of the total amount spent on food. Still, the amount has almost doubled in the last 5 years.
Perhaps most interesting was not the amount that was being spent, but who was spending it : 54% of people in the UK now purchase organic foods at least some of the time. This is irrespective of wealth, despite the premium payable for organic produce. Very encouraging.
This morning I stumbled upon a map indicating the states of the US which have the largest obesity problems. These states, not coincidentally, are also home to a large percentage of the country's poorer families; who have developed an inexpensive, high fat diet over the years.
It seems to be a commonly held belief that healthy diets are automatically more expensive than others, and the above example is certainly not the only one worldwide. A report (PDF) produced last year by childrens' charity NCH claimed that healthy eating in Northern Ireland is up to 6% more expensive than following a more typical diet for the area. However, I am finding that the more my diet improves, the cheaper it becomes - has anyone else noticed the financial benefits of better eating?
Another Christmas treat - once again from Finland - decided to fill the kitchen this morning. Joulutortut, or Christmas stars, are pastries with plum jam that seem to go well with almost everything. Despite the large production line, eating them only took a matter of minutes. At least it seemed that way afterward.
To make the jam (for the filling) :
100 ml pitted prunes (dried plums)
100 ml water
50 ml vanilla sugar
Soak the prunes well (overnight if you have time), add the sugar, water and spice and bring to the boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 mins.
The pastries themselves are simply sheets of puff cut into 9 equal squares. Cut a Maltese cross into each square (the pictures here will show you what I mean) and put a spoonful of jam in the centre. Fold the corners in to the centre (making the star shapes), brush with a little milk and pop into the oven at about 225° for 10 minutes or so.
Be warned - make a large batch. These are great for snacks.
For a while now I've been buying organic fruit and veg at least some of the time. Once it becomes popular (as I'm sure it will be - just look at the range of organic milk now available), it'll become cheaper; and a bit more reasonable. So for now, a few items at a time is enough.
This morning my flatmate (housemate I guess, but that sounds a bit weird) mentioned that buying organic fruit and vegetables online is now reasonably cheap. Certainly better than current supermarket offerings. Has anyone already tried this? I'm currently looking at Organics 4U (www.organics-4u.co.uk - a video (.mov, 27mb) shows samples of some of the boxes) and Organic Vitality (www.organicvitality.co.uk). Looks good.
It's been known for some time that muscle tends to waste away as we get older (over the age of 40, people start to lose up to 2% per year). A team of scientists at the INRAs Human Nutrition Research Centre in Auvergne has demonstrated that this loss - at least in rats - is prevented with sufficent Leucin supplementation.
So what is Leucin? Leucin is one of the essential amino acids (essential as the body needs it but doesn't produce it directly). As it's found in all protein foods, it isn't exactly difficult to come by. In fact, bodybuilders have been taking protein supplements with leucin for years. The study, however, focuses on the effects of muscle aging - and recommends, among other things, up to 9 or 10 grams per day (the average in the US is around 4 or 5) to reproduce the results shown.
Despite having been in Glasgow for a few months now, I left it until today to begin the quest for a decent Chinese supermarket. I think the final straw came the other night when I grabbed a few things for my first batch of Glögi (a Scandinavian mulled wine), and found myself buying tiny amounts of cloves, cinnamon sticks, almonds etc (if anyone wants to knock up a batch, the recipe is below) from a nearby - large - supermarket.
I was directed to the Chung Ying near Glasgow's Caledonian University (which happens to be just far enough from the main shopping area to be largely tourist-free) - an excellent find. Stocking up on spices turned out to be much cheaper than attempting the same thing in any of the larger chains; not to mention the fact that the quantities of each item had increased enormously.
It still seems as though the more I eat, the better and cheaper the food becomes. Perfect.
Now, a recipe for Glögi:
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
.5 cup raisins
1 bottle red wine
2 lemons, juiced
1 orange, juiced
.25 cup sliced almonds
In a large pot, mix water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and raisins. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Gradually heat through (but don't bring it back to the boil). Ladel into cups (avoiding the larger items) and add a few of the boiled raisins and the almonds. Enjoy.
NB : This was first suggested by a Finnish friend of mine, who was mildly surprised that I'd boiled the raisins. If any Finns out there (not mentioning any names) have an opinion on boiling/not boiling the raisins, I'd love to hear it. Either way, it's great on these slightly cool winter evenings.
I've never been fat (apart from those baby photos at funny angles with poor lighting), just unfit and unhealthy. Whilst at uni the nearby McDonalds got more than its fair share of my custom. And that was one of the better parts of my diet.
Around the time I decided to get into shape, I started the long process of cleaning up my diet. This was helped along a little bit as my flatmate - a self-confessed fitness freak - was much further down the healthy-eating path than I.
A few years earlier I'd been inspired to start cooking, and to experiment with my meals. I guess I'm part of the Jamie Oliver generation in that respect. Fortunately this meant that I was quite happy to try new foods, as I was fairly confident of using them up in something. All I had to do now was gradually substitute the bad stuff with good.
The changes seemed gradual at the time, but looking back on it there have been several notable improvements; including :
Overall, it's a vast improvement. I now get through around 4,000 kCals per day, with a fairly low intake of saturated fats and a reasonably high level of protein.
What's next? Now that I've started eating healthy foods on a regular basis, a bit of planning is in order. This - as well as the definition of a few clear goals - will make it far easier to ascertain progress, and to adjust my diet as necessary.
I'm not for a minute suggesting that I'm already getting too much protein, or that protein shakes are bad for you or any of the other nonsense I've heard over the past couple of years. Simply that the main reason for drinking shakes rather than eating high-protein foods seems to be one of convenience. However, with the kitchen easily coming in as my favourite room in any house, that argument seems a little misplaced.
I'm curious as to just how much emphasis everyone else puts on protein supplements as opposed to real food.
My name is Scott, and I am hooked on vitamins.
It began a couple of years ago - quite innocently - with the usual suspects; Vitamin C and a Multivitamin. A bit of light reading added things like Coenzyme Q10 to the list (CoQ10 wasn't anywhere to be seen on the Multivitamin jar) and the daily intake gradually grew and grew. Once it became almost impossible to open the cupboard door without spilling various bottles across the bench I realised it was time to take action.
Selling small bottles of vitamins is an enormous industry. As with insurance, sales are based largely on fear. If you don't take x, bad things will happen to you. Your stress-free days and full nights of sleep will not simply become a rarity (assuming you have them now); they will cease to exist. How anyone managed to cope without several carefully selected pills each day is a mystery.
A few weeks ago I found myself in a health food store. Unsure of which vitamins I needed and which I already had in the cupboard, I bought a new jar of everything (everything on my list, that is - about 15 at last count). Since then I've noticed that my grocery shopping bills have been going down, and my diet has been gradually improving. My current thinking is that I'd not only save a considerable amount of money by skipping the vitamin supplementation, it might force me to keep thinking about the foods I eat. After all, vitamins from the right foods are better than those from a bottle. To me at least.
As it continues to cool down here (the temperature has finally started dipping below zero on a regular basis) the kitchen is gradually taking on a winter - read slightly more fattening - guise. This means the days of high protein/low fat meals have been replaced with high protein/moderate fat ones, and snacks have moved into the roasted vegetable arena (cheap, fast and extremely tasty).
For anyone who's yet to be convinced by the thought of roasted vegetables as snacks, try roasting a few carrots/parsnips/whatever's around. As a guideline - slice into small pieces, put in a roasting pan, drizzle on a bit of oil and add a few herbs. About 15-20mins at 200C (give or take - keep an eye on it). Addictive.
After reading the comments on my last post I realised that it's about time I posted a bit more information on my current (and planned) diet.
Although I love cooking, I seem to have fallen into a simple (almost bland), healthy routine. Typically I have 3-4 full meals per day, plus shakes, bars, fruit and snacks. These include things like :
chicken + rice/pasta
tuna + rice/pasta
baked potatoes + tuna
high protein/moderate carb shakes (mixed with milk) from ISO, a local sports nutrition shop
various high protein/high calorie bars (mostly MET-Rx )
high protein/low carb bars (for late night snacks)
stone fruits, berries, bananas
In addition to this I take the usual vitamins: a multivitamin, multimineral, vitamin C, B complex and various oils. I suspect it's going to be a gradual 'more of the same' as I begin the rise to 100 kg. I'll also start substituting some whey protein for the protein bars as pre-bed snacks.
Once I discovered the power of RSS (for keeping up-to-date with various sites) I almost stopped random browsing altogether. I'm curious to know if others rely as heavily on newsfeeds when it comes to finding out when a particular site has been updated. More specifically, are people using the Atom, RSS or RSS comments feeds?
Whilst on the subject of feeding, I'm currently trying to overpower a heavy cold that seems to have descended last night. The most frustrating part of this - other than trying to avoid the weights for a day or two - is eating when you simply don't want to. Looks like the emergency supplies of chicken soup are about to take a beating.
After a fattening few weeks on the road I've decided to jump on the FitDay bandwagon. My diet is slowly slipping back to the sorry state it was in a few years ago - a decline which I intend to stop as soon as possible.
No doubt I'll get sick of logging every single meal pretty quickly; I'll be happy as long as I can establish some good dietary habits before I reach that point.
To see what my diet's like at the moment : http://www.fitday.com/WebFit/PublicJournals.html?Owner=scottbird
I generally have 6-8 small meals per day, totalling around 3,500 - 4,000 calories. I rarely count protein, fat or carbs; as long as it seems reasonable at the time, it ends up on the plate.
These meals often consist of one or more of the following - cereal, fruit (both fresh and dried), nuts, pasta, baked potatoes, meat, fish and ice-cream. Washed down with copious amounts of green tea, water and milk.
In the way of vitamins and supplements, I have 2-3 protein shakes on workout days, and 1-2 on rest days. The vitamins consist of a multivitamin and vitamin c, as well as some of the following :
helps in contraction and relaxation of muscles, improves bone health, essential for energy production
central role in energy metabolism
improves heart function
increases exercise tolerance
Evening primrose oil
aids heart and brain function
aids heart health
helps prevent muscle catabolism
helps maintain cell volume and hydration, accelerating healing
increases growth hormone levels
Linseed (Flax) oil
as with all EFAs, Linseed aids production of prostaglandines (which control inflammation, pain, immune system balance, energy metabolism and cardiovascular functions)
helps prevent various forms of cancer
Vitamin B complex
helps process calories from carbohydrates
antioxidant, protecting cells from damage
helps body use oxygen
improves wound healing
activates pituitary gland during sleep
These are cycled, with the exception of the Vitamin C and the Multivitamin - they're regulars.
I'm in the midst of a very slow bulking process. Rather than suffer the bodybuilder extremes of an intense bulk/cutting cycle, I elected to simply increase my daily caloric intake above my average requirements whilst making sure not to cook everything in bacon fat.
According to the US Military's Bodyfat Test (see below), I'm currently around 16%; and not showing signs of changing anytime soon. A repeat of the test in another couple of months should give me a reasonable indication of the quantity of muscle gained. With a little luck this will translate into improved results - for the big three at least.
US Military Body Fat testing
The Department of Defense formula for calculating approximate body fat is based on three measurements, and is :
% body fat = 86.010 x log10(abdomen - neck) - 70.041 x log10(height) + 36.76 (for males)
% body fat = 163.205 x log10(waist + hip - neck) - 97.684 x log10(height) - 78.387 (for females)
Naturally there are far more accurate methods of determining body fat; however this provides a reasonable approximation with a minimum of fuss.
For demonstration videos showing how the measurements should be taken, take a look at this site.
Having greatly reduced my consumption of alcohol, caffeine and sugar several months ago, I am now in the process of putting those things back into my diet – in moderation, of course. This means the occasional glass of wine with a meal (rather than an all-night binge), a coffee with friends and even a sip of coke to wash down a pizza. Much more natural.
On the subject of diet, the other slight change comes in the form of a greater intake of food – still in the order of 5-6 meals per day, but a little more for each of them. This connects directly with the current goal of increasing bodyweight to 90kg. Only 14kg to go.
As a sample of the slightly modified diet, this is the basic recipe for the pizzas which have moved their way toward the top of the favourites list :
Mix rest of the flour in with your hands. Add the oil and mix it until the dough is 'bouncy' and doesn't stick to the bowl. Shape dough into a ball, and let it rise for about 30 min in a warm, dark place.
Lightly flour your work area and knock the dough about a bit; rolling it in the flour whenever it gets a little sticky. This just removes the air bubbles.
Divide the dough into four pieces and shape as desired – flat discs for pizzas, small dinner rolls, large loaves etc. Put onto separate baking trays and leave for another 30 mins to rise further.
Pre-heat the oven to 225 C. Add desired toppings – usually on a base of tomato paste.
Bake pizzas for 15-20min (bread may take a little longer, perhaps 25-30 min).
The phases are the same, with the only difference being the way in which I respond to the symptoms.
The phases are :
|1||Initial signs||Partial loss of voice / sore throat||12 hrs|
|2||Beginning||slight weakness / partial loss of voice / sore throat||12 hrs|
|3||Major signs||slight weakness / sore throat / sneezing / occasional coughing||24 hrs|
|4||Fighting||strong weakness / sore throat / running nose / high temperature||24 hrs|
|5||Survival||strong weakness / running nose / wheezing||24 hrs|
|6||Clearing||slight weakness / drying nose||12 hrs|
|7||Recovery||slight weakness||12 hrs|
Throughout these phases, I respond by :
I particularly avoid the use of drugs of any kind, and generally do not seek additional medical advice. I tend to eat less - although more frequently. This generally takes the form of fresh fruit, soups, rice crackers and simple pasta meals.
Notes for next time :
As much as I would like to think that staying healthy will prevent the dreaded flu from ever making a comeback, that's somewhat unlikely. My aim now is to reduce the frequency, severity and duration (by at least 24 hours) of attacks.
A major part of this is to strengthen the immune system immediately following the most severe phases of the flu; the time when you feel well enough to return to life-as-usual but are not yet back to full strength.
During this period I still avoid anything mucus-forming (notably dairy products), and eat mainly hot (yang) foods such as chili, garlic, ginger, honey, onions and a small amount of red meat. Soups such as the tasty, light and cleansing Chicken and Ginseng Soup (a personal favorite, whether ill or not) are also good.
My diet has changed substantially over the past 12 weeks, and the corresponding improvements in overall health are starting to appear. The major changes were :
My diet has improved again over the past few weeks, largely resulting from suggestions in The Optimum Nutrition Bible (with subsequent research elsewhere). These include :
My diet at the moment isn't too bad, although there are a few improvements I'd like to make. Here's a list of the sorts of things I currently consume :Pre-breakfast
In the way of supplements, currently I take carbohydrate/protein shakes twice a day; one an hour before a training session and the other immediately afterward.
Based on a traditional Moroccan dish, this is a great dish for cold winter nights. Preparation time isn't too bad, however allow yourself at least an hour for it to cook.
Large chicken, cut into 8
2 small onions
2 garlic cloves
1tsp ground turmeric
about 1 tsp sliced ginger
1 cinnamon stick
500ml chicken stock
150g stoned green olives
coriander (to garnish)
500ml chicken stock
2 small turnips
450g can chick peas
1tbsp chopped coriander
Fry chicken pieces in olive oil until brown, and set aside.
Saute onion and garlic in remaining oil. Transfer to large pot or casserole, and spices and cook for another minute. Add stock, bring to the boil, and return chicken. Reduce heat and simmer for 45mins - 1 hour.
Remove chicken (keep warm), and reduce liquid by a third. Meanwhile, blanch olives and lemon (sliced) in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and add both to liquid.
Cook couscous in chicken stock, and slice/dice and boil vegetables. Add drained vegetables to couscous, drain chick peas and add, add chiken pieces and pour over sauce. Garnish with fresh coriander.
Another great winter warmer.
A simple, warming soup. Ideal for cold winter days.
The smell of bread fresh from the oven is wonderful, and this is certainly no exception. Have a couple of thick slices while it's still hot, smeared with butter. Beautiful.
Rich and simple, this cheesecake is a great way to finish off a meal. With a glass of port, of course.
I made this for the first time a couple of months ago, and I'm amazed that this classic french dish has managed to escape me for so long. This recipe makes enough to feed several people, or keep one person going for a number of meals.
Over the past couple of months I have made a number of changes to my diet, including :
Increasing my intake of protein and carbohydrates
Minimising intake of coffee
Increasing consumption of tea
All but eliminating intake of red meat
Increasing intake of seafood, particularly oily fish
Increasing use of garlic, ginger and spices in cooking
Greatly increasing intake of fruit
Reducing intake of fatty foods
Increasing use of organic foods
Eating at more regular intervals - every 2-3 hours
Changes planned for the next few months :
Minimising consumption of alcohol
Eliminating intake of red meat entirely
Greatly reducing intake of dairy products, and replacing with soy
Further reducing intake of fatty foods
Eating of 'in season' foods only
Reducing reliance upon imported produce
Further increasing use of organic foods
I'll discuss the impacts of these changes in another two months or so.